Reviewer Entitlement: Digital Submissions

I don’t know anything about the Comic Book Bin website — it’s apparently a side project of a Flash animation company — but my mouth dropped open when I read their review submission guidelines, mainly item 12, “Can I send you digital review material?”

They’re vehemently against it, which seems a bit… hypocritical for a website. Sure, I prefer printed material, too, but here’s their statement:

Publisher Hervé St-Louis HATES when people send him digital reviews. DO NOT SEND DIGITAL REVIEWS TO THE COMIC BOOK BIN and expect them to be reviewed or commented on.

The money you as a vendor think you are saving is actually being spent by us to review your book. While you facilitate your life, you make ours more complicated. Never make a reviewer’s life more complicated. It’s your book, your career, your creation. Don’t ask others to pay for your success.

I think he means “digital submissions”, not “digital reviews”. (“Digital reviews” are what he’s creating, not what he’s receiving.) It goes on from there, listing reasons they don’t like digital copies, of which “they’re not portable” is the only one I find compelling. At least they call it a rant going in.

I think it’s the case that a printed book may be received slightly more favorably. It’s easy to write off a digital copy or not take it as seriously, and there are still technical glitches. For instance, on my laptop, I can read the lettering easily, or I can put the whole page on-screen, but not both. And sure, it’s nicer to get a physical copy.

I was stunned by the sense of entitlement, I guess, to dictate so intensely what publishers should do.


12 Responses to “Reviewer Entitlement: Digital Submissions”

  1. Kevin Melrose Says:

    I don’t understand this part: “The money you as a vendor think you are saving is actually being spent by us to review your book.”

  2. Scott Cederlund Says:

    Yeah, that’s the line I didn’t get either. Are they thinking bandwith?

  3. Johanna Says:

    Either that or costs to print out, but economically, they’re nowhere close.

  4. Kevin Melrose Says:

    The screed is just so … self-important.

    Why not simply state, “We do not accept digital submissions for review,” instead of counting the many (unconvincing) ways those files aggrieve the site’s reviewers?

  5. Mathew Says:

    Unconvincing. I think Kevin hits it on the head, there. The rant is so elaborate that it reminds me of a bad liar… Why do they really want physical copies only? It can’t just be because it’s so darn hard to download a file, save a file (to a hard drive, no less) and then (gasp) open the file.

    I get a mental image that, for the most part, the reviewers are unpaid writers who have been enticed to volunteer their time in exchange for all the cool freebies they’ll (supposedly) get from publishers. Meanwhile, whomever is organizing the site rakes in the money from advertisers.

  6. Nat Gertler Says:

    Except if you want a review to land when the book does and thus be useful, the printed book often -doesn’t exist-. And particularly for color books, a quicky-printed copy just ain’t the same thing.

    But no, it’s no odd entitlement involved in dictating to publishers, as what they’re dictating is what -they- will do: review physical copies, not review digital copies. Surely, they are entitled to decide what they will review?

  7. Marc Mason Says:

    Yeesh. It makes me wonder what they do with the physical copies they get. There’s an entirely different set of ethics when it comes to dispensing with comp copies, but anyway…

    Generally, I don’t like getting PDF copies of books for download because my monitor sucks. Other than that, it’s fine by me. Saves my dwindling shelf space. Sure, hard copies will always be better (and print of any form will never die as long as humans need the toilet), but I realize that publishers don’t want to blow their entire budget on postage (or possibly just don’t have the ability to do so).

  8. Johanna Says:

    Mathew, it’s very possible.

    Nat, they can decide whatever they want — but the way to express that, I would expect, would be “we don’t review digital copies”. Writing a page ranting about how publishers shouldn’t even ask suggests that they’re crossing the line from “here’s what we do” to “here’s what others should do”.

    Marc, yeah, it is a blessing not having to deal with the physical storage problem.

  9. Dan Grendell Says:

    I prefer to review from physical copies when possible, for several reasons. It’s the actual product, so any physical issues that have occurred that may not show up in a digital copy are present. Colors differ on the monitor and the page, so what I see in the digital may not be what I actually get later. Also, I sometimes fail to notice issues with length in a digital version- was it too long, not long enough, for the price point.

    That being said, digital versions are perfectly acceptable to me, and as Nat says, often the printed form doesn’t exist yet when you are solicited for an early review. As Marc points out, digital files are much easier to store than physical copies, too. Digital files also allow small independent companies to get their books out for review cheaply, and I support anything that makes it easier for someone to produce their own book. Honestly, it’s the digital age, and resistance to that seems a bit Luddite in thinking.

    The review site has a right to do as they wish, but I expect they are missing out on the opportunity to see a number of interesting new books as a result.

  10. James Schee Says:

    Huh…. I don’t care much for reading comics on a computer screen. Though I’ve become more open to it and have done so when I’ve done reviews. Yet still I can understand saying they aren’t interested in doing so.

    I don’t get the “making a reviewer’s life more complicated” part though. Do they only have dialup or something?

    Even if so, I’d think setting up a seperate e-mail for people to contact me professionally would be a wise thing to do no matter what. One I could check via the website so you could delete any unwanted e-mail without dowloading/reading it.

  11. Michael May Says:

    I don’t get the “making a reviewer’s life more complicated” part though. Do they only have dialup or something?

    If they’re like me, they just hate reading onscreen and have to print out copies to read, which — depending on your operation — can be a time consuming and expensive process.

    And even then you’re never guaranteed a high res file to read from, so the text is sometimes blurry. Not often, but sometimes. You just never know what you’re getting.

    So, yeah, I agree with most everyone who’s commented so far. Comic Book Bin is entitled to review only the formats they want, but that’s an unnecessarily angry screed they wrote to declare it.

  12. Hervé St-Louis Says:

    Hello. I’m the person who wrote the digital reviews guideline for the Comic Book Bin. I’d like to point out, for those who worry about it that it was also indicated that we’d rather get a cheap black and white print off of a digital comic book folded times over again than another link to download a digital comic book, but that wasn’t pointed out in Joahnna’s original comments. It seems to me that someone who would rather get a cheap and folded photocopy of a comic book is not after any particular gains… I just want to read the book without any discomforts.

    As for reviewer entitlement, I’d like to remind everybody that review Websites do a favour to publishers, and not the other way around. Publishers are merchants trying to access the press. To grab the press’ attention, one should make it easy for the press as opposed to assuming review Websites are supposed to make it easy for you. I know this is a novel idea, but in every other industry outside of the comic industry, that is how the game is played.

    As for the money argument, many publishers who print physical comic books think they are saving money by sending review links. They do, but the time and effort required to review their books, and the security issues related are not worth the efforts. I’ve been to many download sites of comic book publishers where worms rules their message boards and where there were several security concerns and phishing attempts, often without their knowledge. Is it asking too much to just send a cheap ashcan copy that won’t get lost in the shuffle?
    Thank you.

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